The President’s call for a five-member authority

What the Toshaos say about …

Photos by Mariah Lall

 

With the National Toshaos Council (NTC) five-day conference having concluded at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre, participants were asked for their opinion on President David Granger’s recommendation for the establishment of a five-member authority to implement and monitor decisions made by the NTC. They also shared their thoughts on this year’s conference and issues affecting their communities. Their comments follow:

 

20160829Clyde HenryClyde Henry, Toshao of Waramadong Village, Region 7 – ‘There is indeed the need for such because every NTC conference we do make a lot of recommendations and in that way it would be very effective once we form that group because we can depend on that and we can question whether there is enforcement or not so I think it’s a good idea. I have attended several NTCs but this one is a bit different because it’s a bit more open, I would say, because in the first instance when I attended the first one I was shut down from speaking. But this one allowed me to speak on the problems affecting my community. I saw the opposition was in there too and I think that was a good thing. It’s different. In terms of our problems in Waramadong, we have issues in the areas of health, education, sports and mining. We also face many challenges with our land issues so those are some of things I am here to highlight. I am also very happy to be a part of the revision of the Amerindian Act because it is the only piece of legislation that really deals with Amerindians in general.’

 

 

20160829Basil CorneilusRichard Cornelius, Former Toshao Santa Rosa Village, Region 1 – ‘I am baffled at the suggestion because I am asking myself, is it a message that the NTC is incapable of carrying out its mandate? We know that when people make suggestions they think it’s for the better but would this five-person body be like a watchman of the NTC? I feel that the ministry and the NTC have their separate roles to play and as long as they are given the opportunity to carry out their mandate I think things can work out without any need for such mechanisms. We just need the opportunity and some capacity building and we will be fine. We have a lot of land issues in Moruca, a number of issues in connection with boundaries and land extension. We have been told previously that there isn’t any clear solution, but I believe there will be with the revision of the 2006 Amerindian Act. I believe that we need some answers to go back with on what is the clear way to go forward in getting these long lasting problems solved. Apart from that we are looking for more infrastructural work to be done, we need better roads. We feel that development in the area can be boosted if we had better roads. In terms of communication, we are looking for ITC hubs being set up… If you’re looking at a comprehensive education for the Hinterland, these are things we need.’

 

20160829Derek RobertsDerek Roberts, participant from St Anselm’s, Region 1 – ‘We never had presidential grants… We had applied for the jubilee grants this year too but that application was also denied. This year I had to go back to tell my people that there is nothing for us. Apart from that we have children who are travelling 20 miles beginning 6 in the morning just to get to school. We begged for a bigger engine for the boat. Presently the 15 HP engine that we have mash up and school near to open. So now we have no engine to move the 38 children travel on that boat every day. For the recommendation made by the President, I didn’t get it clear so I think more explanation should be done. I don’t know how it would work and people should understand what it means before they say yes or no.’

 

 

20160829David WilsonDavid Wilson, Toshao from Akawini, Region 2 – ‘I think because the NTC executive controlled the conference, it’s a plus for the executive and the leaders this year. I know things won’t be perfect that things would be up and down but we would try to correct this next year.  Some of the things we were interested in was the revision of the Amerindian Act and that was on the top of our agenda that we sought to revise this because this is the law that governs us. We were also looking forward to airing our issues for our various communities. For me this includes the need for more trained teachers at our school, what we would like too is the establishment of a secondary class which we could use to work towards a secondary school in our village. We would also like to have a proper medex there in our village to look at our health issues. I haven’t had a proper thought about the President’s recommendation but I feel we should all think about it more. We have to think about it as an executive and digest it first to see it would really be beneficial to our Amerindian people.’

 

20160829Norma ThomasNorma Thomas, Toshao of Kamarang, Region 7 – ‘My interest at the conference this year was specifically the Amerindian Act which says that we as a people don’t own rivers; that’s the hurtful part. They say the rivers belong to the state so they continue to let the dredge owners pollute our rivers and we have no say in it. And right now that leaves us at the mercy of the creeks because we are not able to use the main rivers. We have our yearly Upper Mazaruni games and it has always been the cry that our players are disadvantaged in Georgetown because they are not accustomed playing in the floodlights but we were fortunate to have the President donate some floodlights to us recently and we started using it at the District Tournament and that was one of the biggest achievements for us in the sports area.’

 

 

20160829Lennox ShumanLennox Shuman, Toshao of Pakuri Village, Region 4/ Vice-Chairman of the NTC – ‘I think it’s too early to comment on the recommendation because as it is right now, it’s just a statement and until we can have full consultation with the indigenous peoples, we cannot see how it’s going to be something useful. We definitely need consultation so that we would know what could benefit the indigenous peoples. Obviously, my personal view is that it’s been great this year because we have been given a golden opportunity to control the agenda and chair without any political interference which I think is a very good step for the NTC.’

 

 

20160829Darnis LarsonDarnis Larson, Toshao Isseneru Village, Region 7 – ‘ I don’t think the recommendation is a wise idea because the ministry already has two ministers and technical assistants so I don’t see the reason why a five-member authority should be established. Looking back at previous conferences, it was chaired by the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples Affairs and their staff, but this year’s conference has been chaired by the NTC themselves and that’s how it should have been in the beginning. My community faces a lot of mining problems and we need someone to solve them. We go to GGMC and nothing happens so we need someone who can help us.’

 

 

 

20160829Murphy CastelloMurphy Castello, Senior Councilor Kabora, Region 1 – ‘Well I think it’s good to have someone in charge of the NTC, it’s a good idea so that whenever we have to come to town, we know exactly where we are coming. Or if we call we know exactly who we are calling. This year’s conference has been good. It has educated a lot of indigenous leaders on how to go about handling certain things like accountability and those things. On the other hand, what I really didn’t like this year was the fact that only Toshaos could have made presentations; councillors were not allowed to. For the revision of the Amerindian Act, I think it’s good because some parts of the Act do not really represent the indigenous people. We are the ones who face it in the hinterland and it’s in writing yes, but it doesn’t always help us.’

 

20160829Claude AnselmoClaude Anselmo, Toshao of Kaikan Village, Region 8 – ‘We are still discussing the President’s recommendation because we didn’t quite understand what it would entail; I feel more consultation should be done before we decide on anything. From the past, this conference is freer whereby you can discuss your issues; it’s more open and independent. But at the same time, we are not pleased with the fact that we did not get to see the Minister of Health or the Minister of Agriculture. What we’re looking forward to with regard to the issues in the Upper Mazaruni is our land. This is an issue that has been there for so long, what we wanted to hear was the steps this government would be taking to help us. When they were in opposition, they understood our situation but it’s the same thing now. It’s the same issue going over and over and no satisfaction has been given. So this is one of the things we are not pleased with. I don’t know what I am going to go home and tell my people.’

 

 

20160829Trevor MattersonTrevor Matterson, Toshao of Baramita Village, Region 1 – ‘I am thinking about the President’s recommendation and I hope the other Toshaos would work along and actually do what they say. Well the conference this year was very good. It was open and everyone could speak freely but there are certain things I am disappointed in: there wasn’t any representative from the Ministry of Agriculture or Health.’

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